Neat thing about listening sessions: it's the one space in time where constructive criticism is thrown completely out the window. That can be dealt with afterward, once you figure out what exactly your ears have just digested.
Naturally, OneHunnidt angled mostly for fun and relaxation on Monday night. He'd already written 60 songs for his Field Sobriety project, whittling everything down to 13. In so many ways, while speaking about the album OneHunnidt expressed that is about always being indecisive -- and human.
"The concept behind the album is about me and the maturity of me as a man," the rapper said with a hint of pride in his voice. "I'm indecisive and I'm a person. Since I change every day, it was hard to put these thoughts together."
He stood inside a renovated area, a small ballroom outfitted with a full stage, a projector hanging overhead and dim lights to add ambience. "You wouldn't have guessed this was KCOH," a woman told us beforehand. "Two weeks ago this room didn't look like this."
Yes, KCOH is undergoing a facelift and Hunnidt joked that for one night he was at least going to be fake-fancy with catered food and alcohol. But once Field Sobriety became the singular topic of discussion, the words were minced.
Nobody appreciates February 4 if you've known OneHunnidt. It's not Groundhog Day, but it is the inspiration for his first full-length project, Legacy of a Legend. A bowling ball of catharsis and agony, it stems from the death of his brother Jonathan Johnson in 2010. OneHunnidt's advancement as a rapper, leaving the parameters of just making poems, rose with 2012's Keep It 100, which eventually garnered him a Best Solo Rap plaque at the Houston Press Music Awards that year. Even if it wasn't on the album, Hunnidt was going to play us "Forever In Our Hearts" and make us realize the significance of the album coming at this particular moment in time.
Any listening session will tell you that probably nobody is truly analyzing the music the way a critic might. It plays in the background, the soundtrack to idle conversations and plenty of catching up. Given how connected OneHunnidt is to seemingly everybody, the rapper made slight concessions here and there, offering how a long conversation with local scribe and music journalist Cecilia Smith helped spawn the entire tape. Her voice is heard throughout much of Field Sobriety, her own time stamp opening up the boom-bap, old-school vibes of "Empty Goals" with George Young.
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Hunnidt tracked out Field Sobriety with the idea that a man is always changing his mind at a moment's notice. It plays into the entire theory of the tape. There's shots at shady journalism and lazy practices all around on the album's opener, "JJ Watt," questions about friends who stick around on "The Longway" with ATLiens Scotty ATL and Sean Falyon. On "Screw Culture," with ESG and Bee Honey, he examines how paying homage to the past can yield to a greater future.
Collaborations are key on Field Sobriety, hence why a large gut of the album works off the voices of Lyric Michelle, Love Dominique, Bee Honey and Sequioyah, among others. Toss in Trakksounds continuing to mutate his own sound left and right with the likes of Code Redd, Yung Knight, Chris Rockaway and more, and it's easy to notice why Field Sobriety wants to run away from the success Keep It 100 established and create its own.
But when you subtract plenty of the pretensions about what a listening session should be, the mood becomes lighter and friendlier. People stuffed their faces with catered pasta, downed free alcohol and tipped the bartender accordingly. For an attempt to bring people together over a new album, it felt more like an excuse to come out and celebrate a man who offers a hand whenever he is available.
For one night, people weren't trying to judge whether or not Field Sobriety had jumped to the early lead in the Best of 2015 race. People wanted to celebrate and be happy. The only thing sober about the entire thing was thinking once more of JJ before continuing the night. Even OneHunnidt's son Peyton, who is a wise six years old, took the mike from his father and told us, in a voice almost thinner than helium itself, "Thank you for supporting my Dad."
Then the mood lightened even further, and respect abounded.
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